NEWPORT NEWS, Va. –
Spc. Rosa Willett joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 2019 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator. Originally from Cancun, Mexico, Willett moved to Newport News, Virginia, when she was little, and now serves in the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group and assists with recruiting in her local area.
Willett credits her mother with encouraging her to join the National Guard, which she did right after finishing high school.
“My mom also motivated me to join,” Willett said. “It was hard for my mom as an immigrant from Mexico. She worked two jobs to support my brother and me when she came here, knowing little English.”
With just a few years of service, Willett has already taken advantage of the benefits she’s earned since joining. She used her education benefits to earn an associate’s degree and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance from Old Dominion University, and was also able to purchase her first home with the help of a VA home loan.
“The National Guard sets you up for success in so many different ways,” Willett explained. "Especially when you are a young person first starting out. I’m happy that I joined; everything I have accomplished I contribute to the Virginia Army National Guard."
When Willett isn’t helping grow the force for the Virginia Army National Guard, she travels back to Cancun, to see family, including her abuela, or grandmother.
“I love seeing everyone and learning more about the culture, which is so different from what I'm accustomed to in the United States,” Willett explained.
Most recently, Willett celebrated her 21st birthday in Mexico. Her abuela prepared some of her favorite dishes, include mole.
“Mole is a sauce created from a delicious blend of seasonings, peppers and other ingredients,” Willett said, explaining that the sauce is then often served over roasted chicken.
Another favorite dish of Willett’s is tres leches.
“It’s a type of sponge cake that’s soaked in sweet milk and cream,” she said. “It's delicious. My mom always made sure we had one for birthdays and special occasions.”
When she’s in Mexico, Willett said she also loves checking out local vendors, the beaches and exploring cenotes.
“The cenotes are these beautiful natural sinkholes, like a pool,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Ultimately, what Willett focuses on the most when she’s in Mexico, is spending time with her family.
“It’s really fun. When I am in that environment, it’s great. I’m not on my phone, I’m enjoying my time with my family,” she said.